Adopted in June 2013, Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("Convention") has entered into force on 1 August 2021. It introduces substantial changes to the right to submit applications to the European Court of Human Rights ("ECHR/Court").

Protocol No. 15 brings some major changes to the process of lodging an application with the ECHR that sits in Strasbourg. First of all, the time limit for submitting application has been reduced from six months to four months following a final domestic decision. This curtailed time period is, however, subject to a transition rule under which the four-month application period will not be effective before 1 February 2022. The shorter application period will also not apply to cases where the final national decision was given prior to the entry into force of the Protocol, i.e., before 1 August 2021, therefore the amendments on the application periods will only enter into force on 1 February 2022, whereas the other amendments are already in force as of the effective date of the Protocol, i.e., 1 August 2021.

Another major change concerning the admissibility criteria of a human rights application is related to "significant disadvantage." With respect to the admissibility criterion of "significant disadvantage" (which allows the Court to reject the application), the wording "provided that no case may be rejected on this ground which has not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal" is removed.

Following this amendment, accepting an application implies that the applicant must have suffered a significant disadvantage, even if the alleged human rights violation had not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal. Consequently, the ECHR will no longer process applications that can be characterised as insignificant.

Also, following the amendments, a Court Chamber may relinquish jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber if a pending case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation of the Convention and its Protocols, or if the resolution of the question might be inconsistent with a judgement previously rendered by the Court. Per the Protocol, parties may no longer object to the relinquishment by a Chamber in favour of the Grand Chamber.

Additionally, the wording "High Contracting Parties, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, have the primary responsibility to secure the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention and its Protocols, and that in doing so, they enjoy a margin of appreciation" has been included in the Preamble of the Convention.

The Protocol introduces important changes to the application periods and admissibility criteria. All relevant individuals must carefully review the changes and take the necessary steps to ensure compliance in their applications to the Court.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in December 2021. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here.

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